Open Letter to ISO

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Hieronymous's picture
Joined: 27-07-07
May 11 2010 18:25
Open Letter to ISO

Wherever one turns, there have been these hyperbolic Open Letters about some alleged "oppressive behavior" at some political action. In actual fact these are often used as a cover for the sectarian manipulations of counter-revolutionaries, most often right-wing Trotskyites like the International Socialist Organization (ISO) -- the former sister group to the Socialist Workers Party in the U.K. Worse still is the so-called Anarchists, Wobblies, and other Leftists who fall lock-step into Popular Fronts to sign Open Letters in defense of the unsubstantiated lies of these vanguardists. Someone called Suzy registered on libcom for the sole purpose of defending the ISO's attempt to control a demo at Hunter College in New York on March 4th (seen here).

As Marx said in the The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonapart, "the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." But since this occurs in nearly every interaction with groups like the ISO, it's time to stop this eternal farce. Especially since the exact same pattern gets repeated again and again interminably, we've got to make clear to the Suzys of the world and those in her Anarcho-Social-Democrat-Leftist Popular Front that once we discover that Trots are making the accusations behind the scenes, the accusations should be received with caution if not dismissed out of hand -- unless some independent source can verify them.

On April 24th in Los Angeles, at a statewide planning meeting for the post-March 4th struggles around education in California the fucking ISO did same bullshit that they always do. As in, caucusing with the other Trot groups behind the scenes to vote as a vanguardist bloc, fighting tooth-and-nail against any mention of "general strike" or even "strike" or "walkout" in our proposals, and scheming to bring the whole movement under their control so that they can stack future meetings and conferences and pull Robert's Rules parliamentary tricks to control the agenda.

I went to L.A. and should have know better since I heard that the ISO would be there. But unlike the fools like Suzy and the other Popular Front defenders of the ISO, some of us composed an Open Letter of our own, with the hope that others don't get fooled by these sectarian manipulators and it is my hope that we cease to even engage with them at all.

Here's the letter:

Fellow organizers,

The following letter deals with some serious concerns regarding events that occurred at the Statewide Conference held at Santee High School in Los Angeles on April 24th. The issues and events discussed take on even more relevance now that Alexander Schmaus, an ISO member from SFSU who collected the sign-up sheets for people who wanted to join the "ad hoc volunteer coordinating committee to plan for the fall conference", has sent out a call for the October conference without first consulting with the members of that ad hoc committee. In addition, he has not responded to multiple requests by members of LA March 4th to share with the listserve moderators a scanned copy of those sign-up sheets (just as we have shared scanned copies of the general sign-in lists for the conference, notes taken, etc). Among the many reasons why such sharing is important, two particularly stand out to me: (1) the need for list moderators to be able to look up an activist's email address in case an email bounces due to a misreading or typo, and (2) the creation of an atmosphere of mutual trust and cooperation. Since Mr. Schmaus has not responded to either phone or internet requests for the sign-up sheets, he seems to not grasp the importance of either (1) or (2).

This type of behavior is unprincipled and divisive, and serves to sow distrust and division among the various groups participating in the movement. To ensure solidarity and cooperation, it is essential that unprincipled behavior be challenged and discussed openly and publicly. In that spirit, I present the following Open Letter to the ISO.

Omar Hussein

Text of the Open Letter follows: wrote:

To our fellow organizers in the ISO,

The role played by the ISO in our Statewide Conference on April 24th was very upsetting to many of us in our local LA Committee (LAM4), and to many activists in the movement, including, to our knowledge, activists from Oakland, the East Bay, San Francisco, Fresno, and San Diego. To explain our anger and frustration, it will be helpful to review what happened:

The day before the conference (4/23), unbeknownst to the non-ISO members of LAM4, an article by Berkeley student activist Nick Kardahji appeared in the online version of Socialist Worker, the flagship newspaper of the ISO (the article can be read here: In it, Kardahji stated that the following day’s conference would “not be in any sense a representative gathering,” and therefore, the conference should merely “act as a foundation from which to begin building for a genuinely representative, delegated conference.” He also proposed that “a good date and venue for such a conference would be San Francisco State University on October 1-2.” Because we were busy planning the conference, none of us non-ISO members of LAM4 were aware of this last-minute position statement until after the conference. None of the ISO participants in LAM4 have at any point brought up this article, either in meetings or on the listserves, before or after the conference.

At the beginning of the conference, the ISO, along with the majority present, voted to approve the agenda (with alterations), which included a discussion of (1) Next Steps (including next actions and the next Statewide), (2) Principles of the March 4th Movement, and (3) Demands of the March 4th Movement. During the agenda discussion, no one proposed to remove “demands” or “principles” from the agenda, and no one questioned the legitimacy of the conference on the grounds that it was “not a representative gathering.” Again, at the subsequent breakout sessions, no one brought up the concern that the conference was not “representative” or that it would be illegitimate for us to discuss demands or principles. Yet at the very beginning of the final General Assembly—during which we had agreed to discuss, refine, and vote on the items discussed in the Break-Out sessions—a group of several people, prominently including the bulk of ISO members present, brought up these very concerns, and used them as the basis for multiple motions to edit and amend the already-ratified agenda.

This challenge to the already-approved agenda led to a great deal of frustration among those present. In turn, airing this frustration led to disarray and confusion. The absurdity was such that at one point, we were discussing whether or not to vote on whether or not to have another vote about whether or not to form a committee to form a steering committee. Ultimately, a lot of time was wasted, leaving inadequate time for the discussion of principles and demands, which were tabled. There were many causes for the chaos, and LAM4 takes responsibility for some of them. In addition, not all who voted to table the demands and principles belong to the ISO. However, at the origin of the fracas was the inappropriate way in which several people, notably including ISO members who had been active in LAM4 and their comrades, dealt with their concerns (legitimate or not) about the conference.

Because so many of us in the March 4th movement viewed the ISO’s actions surrounding the conference as dishonest and inappropriate, we feel that the ISO must answer, directly and publicly, the following questions:

(1) Why did ISO members active in the LA March 4th Committee (particularly those most active, like Sarah Knopp, Gillian Russom, and John Osmand) not bring up the ISO’s chief concern (that the conference would not be representative) BEFORE the conference so that we could collectively discuss and debate the issue, and plan for it? There was adequate time beforehand; in fact, Sarah and some of her comrades were present at a meeting 6 days before the conference. They offered help securing translation services and funding, but did not voice concerns about legitimacy. We will not accept the answer that “Nick Kardahji was merely speaking as an individual, he doesn’t represent the ISO.” The ISO voted as a bloc at the conference. And it has become clear from talking to our contacts across the state that ISO activists were privately questioning the legitimacy of the upcoming conference to activists in several other committees in the days immediately prior to the 24th. Yet none of our ISO “comrades” active in LAM4 brought up such concerns directly in meetings or on the listserve; no one even bothered to forward the Kardahji article. Why?

2. Why did the ISO members who were present at the conference, including Nick Kardahji, whose name appears on the sign-in sheets, vote collectively to approve the Agenda, and participate constructively in the Break-Outs, only to suddenly assault the legitimacy of the conference during the final General Assembly? Why did they approve the agenda, then try to challenge and amend it multiple times during the General Assembly session? If the conference was viewed as “not representative,” and suitable only for planning another conference, why weren’t these concerns brought up during the Agenda discussion or the Break-Out sessions?

3. Why is it so crucial for the conference to be held in October at SF State?
Certain SF State activists present on the 24th stated their opposition to having the next conference at their campus. After the dishonest way the ISO dealt with their concerns about representation, LAM4 organizers feel suspicious about the ISO pushing for a specific location and date (especially after inappropriately advocating for it in their newspaper on the eve of the conference). ISO members active in LAM4 need to explain why their organization favors this date and location.

If the ISO wants to have a constructive working relationship with the rest of the core LA M4 activists, they have to answer these questions openly and directly and publicly. It is not possible to work constructively with people who do not openly communicate, who keep secret their disagreements until opportune moments, and who play dice with the outcomes of important organizing conferences. Such actions are divisive, and serve to demoralize people and threaten to undermine the movement and sap its energy.

This Open Letter is not intended as an attack on the politics of the ISO, or those of its individual members. It is not intended as libelous slander or character assassination. In fact we see left sectarianism—the unfortunately widespread competition between left groups that leads them to place the interests of one organization ahead of the interests of the movement—as a destructive habit that must be assiduously avoided. On the other hand, we believe that the strength of this fledgling movement has been the openness, democracy, integrity and discipline of its participants. We feel that the actions of the ISO around this conference are contrary to these guiding principles, and suggestive of left sectarianism. Therefore, these actions need to be openly challenged and discussed publicly. Anything less would be an insult to the integrity of the movement.

We look forward to a direct public reply from the ISO.


Arturo Velazquez, LAM4, Labor’s Militant Voice (LMV)

Julia Wallace, LAM4, LMV

Angelica Garcia, LAM4, LMV

Kelly Velasquez, LAM4

Victor Interiano, LAM4

Mayra Jaimes, LAM4

Natasha Khanna, LAM4,

Omar Hussein, LAM4, UTLA PEAC

Steve Gonzalez, LAM4

Muffy Sunde, LAM4, The Freedom Socialist Party (FSP)

Crystal Sudano, San Diego State March 4th Committee

Debora Santos, San Diego State March 4th Committee, LAM4

Frances Mead, East Bay Strike Committee

Richard Mellor, LMV, East Bay Strike Committee

Kulraj Dhah, Fresno March 4th Committee

Satvir Dhah, Fresno March 4th Committee

Jamie San Andreas, Fresno March 4th Committee

Gifford Hartman, San Francisco March 4th Committee

Richard "Rusty" Navarrette

Sheldon's picture
Joined: 19-01-09
May 12 2010 04:30
Hieronymous wrote:
As in, caucusing with the other Trot groups behind the scenes to vote as a vanguardist bloc, fighting tooth-and-nail against any mention of "general strike" or even "strike" or "walkout" in our proposals, and scheming to bring the whole movement under their control so that they can stack future meetings and conferences and pull Robert's Rules parliamentary tricks to control the agenda.

In the "principles of the movement" section of one of the breakout sessions, they continuously shot down any effort to allow the term "anti-capitalism" be a fundamental principle.

Hieronymous's picture
Joined: 27-07-07
May 12 2010 08:00

More on ISO class collaboration:

Recently Larry Bradshaw, an ISO cadre, was elected at 3rd VP of SEIU mega-local 1021 that represents 54,000 members in Northern California. He represents city employees in San Francisco, 17,424 of whom were given pink slips by the mayor, being told that they had to reapply for their jobs.

What are piecards like Larry doing to fight back? Basically trying to negotiate so that the concessions aren't quite so severe and to limit the number of layoffs. Pathetic!

See for yourself in this video clip:

OliverTwister's picture
Joined: 10-10-05
May 13 2010 19:59

Hieronymous, which IWW members are collaborating with the ISO? I can count the number of IWW members that I know of active in the March 4 movement on two hands, and I don't think any of them would go in for that kind of thing.

Otherwise, good job exposing the manipulation - a lot of people probably don't realize what's happening until its too late.

Hieronymous's picture
Joined: 27-07-07
May 13 2010 20:13

I meant the Wobblies who signed onto the "The Politics of Impatience: An open letter from anarchists to the anarchist movement" that Suzy posted (here).

Also, a clarification is in order. All the signatories to the above open letter actually attended the Los Angeles meeting and were first-hand witnesses to the ISO's unprincipled manipulations. The same can't be said for Suzy and the signers of the "Politics of Impatience" open letter.
Joined: 9-08-07
May 14 2010 15:17

While I sympathis with all your other points, and am not surprised at all about the typical "trot" behaviour - What is wrong with political groups with a shared agenda or seeking a shared agenda meeting before a broader meeting in order to explore the possibilities of, or plan a common approach?

It's the opposition's fault for not out-organising the trots if they let them stitch up broad meetings.

Nyarlathotep's picture
Joined: 26-04-10
May 17 2010 17:28
The Politics of Impotence

That you are losing control, this much is certain. Your grasp on the throat of social conflict is loosening. The younger generation, we don't care about your 95 year long zine writing careers, your expensive-ass books about people struggling in some hot-ass country somewhere, or your pretensions of understanding, after decades of participating in a failure, the one true path to revolution.

We don't have the answers either, of course, but we don't need to name every guest speaker at Bluestockings to feel better about it.

What is the purpose of an anarchist petition against the actions of a group of anarchists? Is it an honest attempt at creating an open dialogue between two sides? We don't think so. What transpired here was an attempt to coerce compliance to the old leftist dogma through force of capital. Social capital, of course, exemplified in all the name-dropping of anarcho-nobodies and their 40 years of activism, but also capital in a more real sense: the power one gains through the mass production of their writings, of their name being seen on bookshelves in the comfortable living rooms of homes across America.

That you quoted perhaps the most sorry-ass article ever written by Crimethinc is shameful.

What actually transpired on March 4 doesn't seem to concern you. That the fight started when a member of the ISO hit an anarchist with a drum is seemingly inconsequential.

We are alarmed by how quickly an insult can become a "rape threat" when spoken from the mouth of a black man. Like us, he too was subject to the all-too-familiar schizophrenia of white eroticization. To you I have only one question: Are we rapists or innocent "POC" waiting to be led? Make up your damn minds.

None of this, of course, matters to you. What matters is your ability to, by any means, regain control over the elements of the social struggle that have become, from your assessment, uncontrollable.

What kind of positive dialogue did you really expect to have with an internet call-out? Your petition further emboldens the authoritatarian ISO by painting them as heroic victims while simultaneously marginalizing the anarchist hooligans. Arguing about this kind of shit through public mediums only encourages our enemies who see our divisiveness as weakness.

We understand our divergent opinions to be our strength, however, anyone who wants to publicly berate anarchists while siding with authoritarians can eat our black asses.

Of course your petition isn't really about what happened at Hunter on March 4. It's about the attempt of the washed up has-beens of anarchy making a final attempt to assert their dominance by doing all they can to suppress the more exciting side of struggle.

We don't all need to participate in the same tactics, but aligning with statists over anarchists is a disgrace we cannot forgive. That you would even use the word "vanguardist" to describe anarchists in a petition written to defend the International Socialist Organization is beyond manipulative. You disgust us; we are embarassed not by you, but for you.


(Two black motherfuckers in San Francisco)

PS- Chris Crass, nigga you were in the orange vest after Oscar Grant's murder trying to prevent the riot. Fuck all y'all.